The Northern Renaissance was greatly influenced by the Reformation which questioned and weakened the power of the Catholic Church. New 15th and 16th century ideas and discoveries changed the world forever. From the voyage of Columbus to America in 1492 and Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1519-22, proving that the Earth was round, to the previously mentioned invention of the printing press the Renaissance in Italy and in the North marked the passage from the medieval to the modern age.
In Northern Italy the High Renaissance represented by the religious paintings of Giovanni Bellini which include several large altarpieces of a type known as " Sacred Conversation " which show a group of saints around the enthroned Madonna. His contemporary Giorgione left a small number of enigmatic works, including The Tempest , the subject of which has remained a matter of speculation. The earliest works of Titian date from the era of the High Renaissance, including a massive altarpiece The Assumption of the Virgin which combines human action and drama with spectacular colour and atmosphere.
The opened painting reveals the life of Jesus, beginning with the Annunciation, where Mary is told that she is to bear the immaculate conception, to Jesus's birth, and his later resurrection from death. Once more, if these inner panels are opened, it reveals yet another painting, this one of the Temptation of St. Anthony . Here, St. Anthony wanders through the forest, and is taunted by a vision of torturing monsters. Perhaps the whole significance is that pain is an illusion created by evil, and that the faithful will overcome this illusion and will be welcomed by the glories of the afterlife if their faith remains strong.